Colorado is phasing out old license plates, and your state could be next

By | September 19, 2023

Colorado License Plate Hero

Colorado License Plate Hero

Spend a lot of time behind other cars while commuting and you will inevitably end up spending a lot of time fixing the license plates. Custom designs, colors and lettering are just some of the things you might notice in traffic and, perhaps, depending on the state you call home, if the lettering on a license plate is embossed.

Millions of Coloradans are certainly starting to notice this last point, especially those trading in their cars for something new. Apparently, drivers in the Centennial State with older embossed plates are now required to replace their plates with newer shielded plates (i.e., embossed letters to silk-screened flat plates) when purchasing a new vehicle.

The reasoning for the switch is simple. Over time, officials believe wear and tear from the elements, driving and even car washes causes the reflective finish of the raised plates to erode. Eventually, they can be worn down to the metal underneath, making them incapable of being read by police and Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology used for toll roads, according to KUSA.

Anyone who buys a new car will be required to obtain a new license plate with registration number. Colorado says it will allow vehicle owners to keep the old number if they want, though it will cost the same amount as if they had purchased a personalized license plate: $93.06 after fees.

Now, Colorado isn’t the only state to abandon raised plates. In fact, over 20 other states in the United States use shielded sheets, including Delaware, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, Washington DC, and others.

Some states have made the switch in recent years. Kansas, for example, switched from embossed to shielded license plates in 2018. The state decided to switch to shielded license plates after existing labels experienced blistering and paint wear on the embossed area. Kansas Vehicle and Property Appraisal Director David Harper She said that the probable cause of the problem was “normal wear and tear” when it adopted the new design. And in 2021, the State valued that of its 2.3 million registered cars, 1.1 million were still using older embossed plates.

New York is another state that has experienced problems with relief plates coming off. In 2019, the State decided not to renew the contract with 3M, which provided the reflective material for its license plates. The state did not directly comment on speculation about 3M’s material as the reason behind the change, but instead said it “continuously reviews[s] and evaluate[s] all its programs for quality and effectiveness.” New York still uses embossed plates today, but offers replacements to peel dishes for free.

Colorado license plate

Colorado license plate

Then there are states that are going far beyond embossing, engraving and screen-printed plates, and Colorado is already one of them. A new trend towards legalization by states digital license plates it happened lately. The technology started to become popular for the first time five years agowhich quickly led to some states trying it and subsequently allowing ordinary people to purchase such dishes. Costs aside, could states one day impose the total abandonment of metal plates?

Regardless of the factors at play, license plates as a whole represent big business for businesses. also 3M spearheaded an ad campaign last year on a now-defunct website that called for more states to adopt front license plates in the name of safety. Colorado says its new license plates will also help in terms of safety, but they could also make it harder to skip toll highways and avoid ALPR scanners, which is probably a pretty big factor.

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